There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kindle 2 on the bus, too

OK. I admit it. I don't ride the bus much. It's not for want of trying. But when my full-time, four-day-a-week gig in Oakland was turned into a half-time work-from-home job, my excuse for getting out of my sweats and on the bus disappeared. My Wednesday evening class at American River College is my lone bus trip and that is only one way because my class gets out after the last bus.

Late last year, when I was still riding RT to the Amtrak station and Amtrak to and from Oakland's Jack London Square, the wife decided to combine birthday and Christmas gifts and buy me a Kindle. At the time, Amazon was still selling the original Kindle, but the wife had heard a new version was coming, perhaps in March. So I got a gift-wrapped IOU.

And late last month I received my Kindle2. Now I really wish I had a commute longer than the walk from my bedroom to my home office.

I've finished one book so far, and I'm on my second. There are shortcomings you have to accept when reading a book on a Kindle, but the overall experience certainly makes this gift a keeper.

For those unfamiliar with the Kindle, the device has a black and white screen that displays text and images. This is not an LCD display. Instead, the Kindle uses a process that genuinely duplicates a printed page. As a result, you can read the Kindle in bright sunlight while waiting for the bus. Try that with your netbook pc. I have experienced none of the eye fatigue that I get when I'm using a computer for long periods.

As the above image illustrates, the Kindle is a comfortable size. My absolutely favorite aspect of reading on the Kindle is the ability to lay it down and eat a bowl of oatmeal and not have to worry about the pages turning by themselves. If I were using this on the bus, my most favorite feature would be the fact that no matter how big the book, it is never bigger than the Kindle. There were times when I was commuting to The Bee and reading a 600-page book that I could really have used the Kindle.

I can imagine that people who skim when they read will find the comparatively small reading area a distraction. There is a noticeable delay as the Kindle draws each page of type and pressing "Next Page" repeatedly is a slow process. But for me, someone who tends to read one word at a time, the smallish area is a distinct advantage, and I find it much easier to concentrate on my reading.

Buying books is too easy if you're on a budget and can't resist temptation. You can browse Amazon's site from the Kindle using the built-in cellular wireless connection. The wireless service is free and always on. (The paranoid among us can turn off wireless.) You can also log into your account from any computer and send books to your Kindle.

The books arrive shortly after you buy them. You can even read a sample section of a book for free and decide when you are finished to buy the book. (Feature request: The Kindle2 does not make it easy to go from the place where you left off in the "free" copy to the same point in the actual book.)

The Kindle2 makes it possible to "bookmark" and take notes, even highlighting and saving sections of text. Unfortunately, you can't use the wireless connection to email those back to yourself. You have to connect the device to a USB port on your computer. The files are stored as .TXT files. I haven't actually tried this yet, but the manual makes it sound like pulling files off any other USB thumb drive.

In theory, the keyboard makes it possible to enter your own notes, but this keyboard is not designed for fingers, at least not for touch-typing. This is thumb-country and I suspect people who text on Blackberrys will be more impressed with the keyboard than I have been.

The price of the Kindle is steep -- $359 -- and I doubt I would have ever purchased one for myself. However, I'm glad the wife bought this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On transit legs longer than 25 minutes before exiting or transferring,I'll watch video clips on my ZEN...